Lisa Niver is now the Adventure Correspondent on The Jet Set Tv!

Who is the Adventure Correspondent on The Jet Set?Thank you to The Jet Set!

I am the Adventure Correspondent on the show.

I was first on the show in February 2017 for an interview talking about my 50 things before I am 50 project.

I now have two segments live. My first one is about skiing with the National Ability Center and going on the Olympic Bobsled in Park City, Utah. In the second one, learn about the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.

I look forward to sharing more of my adventures with you on the show. Thank you to the entire team at The Jet Set, especially Gailen, Bobby, Nikki, Brad and April.

See my segments on YouTube:

Who is the Adventure Correspondent on The Jet Set?What is The Jet Set?

“The Jet Set is a first of it’s kind talk show designed to keep pace with the professional, leisure and aspiring traveler by offering interviews with a wide variety of guests from the entertainment and travel worlds, on-location experiences, and insight into the latest trends and current events.

Our show engages a social media connected generation, experiencing destinations with them, rather than for them. Opening the door to new advertising and promotional opportunities with both travel-focused companies such as airlines, hotel brands, restaurant chains, etc. and lifestyle products including mobile electronics, apps, financial services and cosmetic brands among others.

The Jet Set not only connects viewers to a destination or experience, but also to hosts they can relate to and brands that will help take them where they truly want to go.”

Who is the Adventure Correspondent on The Jet Set?

More of The Jet Set:






Who is the Adventure Correspondent on The Jet Set?

Who is the Adventure Correspondent on The Jet Set?The Jet Set is a fresh new talk show designed to reinvent travel television and keep pace with the professional, leisure and aspiring traveler by experiencing the sights, sounds and scenery of destinations around the world or here at home, along with you!

As the first hybrid talk and travel show, ‘The Jet Set’ is anchored from its ‘jet’ television set complete with an airplane wing desk and actual set pieces built from a decommissioned Boeing 747. Alternatively, like other travel shows, ‘The Jet Set’ hits the road to feature destinations, attractions, festivals and unique adventures.

Travel and talk veterans Gailen David, Bobby Laurie and health and wellness expert Nikki Noya will keep you in the loop each week with a wide variety of guests from the entertainment and travel worlds, on-location experiences, and insight into the latest trends and current events.

But more importantly, we let you in on the fun and reinforce that you don’t need to “jet” to be part of the “Jet Set” experience!

Mom and daughter climb ev’ry mountain

For Cheryl and Nikki Bart, ain’t no mountain high enough.

Seven years after their first adventure in Nepal, the Barts are heading back to Katmandu this week in an attempt to become the first mother-daughter team to conquer Everest.

If they manage to reach the roof of the world, the Sydney pair also would be the first mother and daughter to have scaled the so-called seven summits — the highest peaks on each of the Earth’s continents.

“My husband likes to quip that it’s a record that may go unbroken for generations,” Cheryl says with a laugh. “The first Jewish mother-daughter team to climb Everest and the seven summits!”

Cheryl and Nikki Bart are both graduates of Moriah College, Australia’s largest Jewish school. Cheryl is a nonexecutive director of several companies and is an ambassador of the Australian chapter of the Peres Center for Peace.

Nikki, 23, is in her sixth and final year of studying medicine.

Their addiction to altitude was forged two decades ago when they visited Israel. While Cheryl’s husband and son took the cable car to the summit of Masada, Cheryl and Nikki, then 5, climbed up in sweltering heat.

Nikki doesn’t recall the climb, but she remembers visiting Israel.

“That was probably my first greatest adventure,” she says. “I remember absolutely loving it and already loving traveling with Mum. That’s probably when my travel bug began.”

Since 2001, Cheryl and Nikki have climbed the highest peaks on each continent: Mount Elbrus in Europe, 18,510 feet; McKinley-Denali in North America, 20,320 feet; Kilimanjaro in Africa, 19,340 feet; Aconcagua in South America, 22,834 feet; Vinson Massif in Antarctica, 16,066 feet, and Kosciuszko in Australia, 7,310 feet.

Their final frontier is Everest, at 29,035 feet, which has claimed the lives of more than 200 climbers since the first attempts were made in the 1920s — long before Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made history on May 29, 1953.

The Barts know the risks. In 2006, while heading up McKinley-Denali in Alaska, they were trapped at an altitude of about 16,500 feet for six days in a severe snowstorm.

“It was just so scary,” Cheryl recalls. “Our bodies were slowly atrophying, and it took a lot of effort to stay sane.”

It was even worse for Nikki, who suffered frostbite on her fingers.

“With extremely sore hands, I then had to walk for 12 hours on what is called the ‘death march’ before catching the plane out,” she says. “It was a terrifying injury.”

This time, however, they will be climbing in the “death zone” — an altitude of more than 26,000 feet. At that point, according to Cheryl, “your body actually starts dying on you because it’s just too high and everything starts to shut down.”

The Barts hope to leave base camp at the beginning of April and reach the summit in May. On April 19 — the first seder night of Passover — they probably will be near the highest point on Earth.

“We will definitely be taking some matzah along,” Nikki says. “But due to the high-carb diet we need to maintain for energy, keeping Pesach may be difficult.”

In Spring a reader’s fancy turns to thoughts of … books

Michael Chabon’s Alaskan Adventure

In Michael Chabon’s invented world, Yiddish is spoken in the Alaskan panhandle.

After World War II, the Federal District of Sitka in Alaska — not Israel — became the homeland for the Jews.

“The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” (HarperCollins, May, $26.95) is the much-anticipated novel by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.” While Chabon has published short stories, a novella and a novel for young adults, this is his first full-length work of fiction since 2000. Film rights have already been bought by Scott Rudin.

Sitka is “a compound of fog and the light of sodium-vapor street lamps. It has the translucence of onions cooked in chicken fat. The lamps of the Jews stretch from the slope of Mount Edgecumbe in the west, over the seventy-two infilled islands of the Sound, across Shvartsn-Yam, Halibut Point, South Sitka, and the Nachtasyl….”

The novel is set in the present, and Sitka is reverting to Alaskan control, after 60 years of prosperous times for the Jews. Homicide Det. Meyer Landsman of the District Police discovers the corpse of his neighbor, a former chess prodigy, but his investigation is mysteriously ordered closed. This is a hard-boiled detective story that’s an homage to 1940s noir, a love story, a meditation on identity and faith and a celebration of language, spiced with Chabon’s distinctive humor.

Chabon’s first novel, “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh,” was originally written for his master’s degree from the University of California, Irvine, and became a national bestseller. His other novels include “Wonder Boys” and “Model World”; his adventure novel, “Gentlemen of the Road,” is now running in serial form in The New York Times Magazine.

Born in 1963, Chabon grew up in Columbia, Md., a planned community with utopian aspirations, and has lived in California for the last 20 years. He now lives in Berkeley with his wife, novelist Ayelet Waldman, and their four children.
Chabon will embark on a 15-city author tour, making two unusual stops — in Anchorage and Juneau.

Chabon will speak in Los Angeles on May 9, 7 p.m., at the Los Angeles Public Library, 630 W. Fifth St., Los Angeles; and May 10, 7 p.m., at Book Soup, 8818 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood. For more information, visit

Einstein, Times Two

Two new biographies look closely at the life and work of the 20th century’s most celebrated mind, Albert Einstein, whose name — and shock of hair — has come to symbolize genius.

Veteran journalist Walter Isaacson, formerly managing editor of Time magazine and chairman and CEO of CNN, who now heads the Aspen Institute, has written “Einstein: His Life and Universe” (Simon & Schuster, April, $32), following his best-selling biography of Benjamin Franklin.

A journalist with a background in physics, Jurgen Neffe is the author of “Einstein: A Biography,” translated by Shelley Frisch (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, May, $30). His book was a bestseller in Germany when it was published in 2005, on the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity.

Isaacson’s book is based largely on newly released personal letters of Einstein. More than 3,500 pages of correspondence between Einstein and his two wives and children, along with photos, were released last year at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. The release was made in accordance with the will of Einstein’s stepdaughter, Margot.

Isaacson probes Einstein’s private side, as well as how his mind worked. He sees Einstein as a rebel from childhood, always questioning conventional wisdom; his character, curiosity, creativity and passion for freedom were interconnected, driving his life, science and politics.

As Isaacson writes, “His tale encompasses the vast sweep of modern science, from the infinitesimal to the infinite, from the emission of photons to the expansion of the cosmos. A century after his great triumphs, we are still living in Einstein’s universe….”

Isaacson is also the author of “Kissinger: A Biography” and co-author of “The Wise Men: Six Friends and the World They Made”; he lives in Washington, D.C.
Neffe looks at Einstein as a parent and physicist, as a citizen and a Jew and as an American. He writes of his complicated subject: “He could reconcile discrepant views of the world, but he was a walking contradiction. Einstein polarized his fellow man like no other. He was a friend to some, an enemy to others, narcissistic and slovenly, easygoing and rebellious, philanthropic and autistic, citizen of the world and hermit, a pacifist whose research was used for military ends.”

He adds, “Rarely has a single individual been so far-sighted and myopic at the same time.”

The English version was updated to include information from the recently published 10th volume of Einstein’s collected papers.

Isaacson will discuss and sign “Einstein: His Life & Universe” on April 27, 7 p.m., at All Saints Church, 132 N. Euclid Ave., Pasadena.

Memoirs from Harry Bernstein and Ruth Gruber, both 95

In this age of memoir, two new volumes are particularly notable for their wisdom and the age of their writers: Both Harry Bernstein and Ruth Gruber are 95. Bernstein is a first-time author, making his literary debut with “The Invisible Wall” (Ballantine, March, $22.95), and Gruber is a veteran author and journalist. “Witness” (Schocken, April, $27.50) is her 19th book.

The wall of Bernstein’s title is the figurative barrier running down the middle of the street in a northern English mill town on the eve of World War I. On opposite sides were Jewish families and Christian families; the two didn’t speak, although they had much in common in terms of poverty as well as prejudice. Written from the perspective of a young boy, the memoir details how the author’s sister crossed the line, falling in love with a brilliant young Christian man. Harry was the go-between, hiding their secret. He describes the atmosphere inside their home and outside in the fear-filled world.

Bernstein, who lives in Brick, N.J., began this book about four years ago after his wife died. At his age, he says, people have less of a present and no future, so the past becomes larger. When he started thinking about his childhood, the memories came easily.

Tale of heroics, terror from the top of the world

It was a beautiful morning in May on the world’s highest mountain, and Dan Mazur was feeling good. He had been hiking throughout the night in below-freezing temperatures, and now he and his team — a sherpa and two other climbers — had only two hours to go until reaching the summit of Mount Everest.

Mazur had reached the top before, 15 years earlier. But this time, the mountain climber and guide was leading two clients who were paying more than $20,000 each for the chance to accomplish the goal of a lifetime. Their objective was so close they could almost reach out and touch it.

Suddenly, Mazur saw something unexpected — some yellow fabric in the distance. At first it looked like a tent, but then it became clear that it was a person, a man sitting cross-legged on a narrow ridge with an 8,000-foot drop to one side and a 6,000-foot drop to the other.

At 28,000 feet — a part of the mountain dubbed the “death zone,” because the weather is so cold and oxygen is so scarce — the man wore no gloves, no hat and had unzipped his down suit to his waist.

“I imagine you’re surprised to see me here,” the man said.

What happened next would cost Mazur his summit and save the man’s life. Now, more than six months later, Mazur, a 46-year-old who lives in Olympia, Wash., will talk about the adventure and dramatic rescue at the Malibu Jewish Center & Synagogue on Wednesday evening, Dec. 6.

As it turned out, the man on the ledge was Lincoln Hall, one of Australia’s best-known climbers. Hall had attempted to summit Everest 22 years earlier but never made it. This time, at age 50, Hall had made it to the top.

But on the way down the day before, Hall had started having trouble.

Experiencing the classic symptoms of altitude sickness — fatigue and hallucinations — Hall had refused to continue down the mountain and ended up passing out. The two sherpas with him concluded, after poking Hall in the eye and getting no response, that Hall was dead. Suffering from lack of oxygen themselves, they hurried down the mountain.

A friend had already broken the news to Hall’s wife and teenage sons: Hall was dead — or so they thought. In fact, he was struggling but alive. He ended up lasting through the night alone.

Atop the mountain, at around 7:30 a.m., Mazur and his team persuaded a resistant Hall to put on his gloves and hat. They gave him oxygen, tea and a Snickers bar and tethered him to their rope. They radioed down to Hall’s expedition group, which dispatched a rescue team.

It would take more than three hours for the rescuers to arrive. But Mazur and his climbers waited with Hall, while their chances of summiting slipped away.
In the end, Hall suffered frostbite; he lost some fingertips. But he made it down the mountain.

Mazur’s rescue caught the attention of national media, which had reported only days earlier the demise of another Everest climber, David Sharp, who died after an estimated 40 climbers passed him without offering any help.

“I was always taught that when you see someone who needs help, you’ve got to help him right away,” Mazur said, speaking on the phone from Washington State.

If he had the day to do over, he said, “I would do it again exactly the same.”
Mazur, who grew up with a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother, said he is more spiritual than religious. But that day, high on the mountain, Mazur prayed. He prayed that God would help Hall.

“I believe that Lincoln Hall survived because he was very lucky; the weather was not too bad; he was in good shape,” Mazur said. “And I believe there was a higher power that was looking after him.”

Dan Mazur will speak on Wednesday, Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m. at the Malibu Jewish Center & Synagogue, 24855 Pacific Coast Highway. Admission is free.
For more information, call (310) 456-2178

The Bittersweet Meaning of Mud


I had been waiting seven years, and my machon summer at Camp Ramah in Ojai was finally here. It would be different from every other summer, because we would finally be the oldest group, and camp domination would be ours. I knew it would be bittersweet, and I looked forward to making every moment of this incredible summer count.

Natalie KatzThere is one program in particular that embodies all of the emotionalism and meaning of machon summer: Tza’adah. Tza’adah is a five-day, four-night overnight trip that takes campers far from the boundaries of camp and into the nature of Northern California, where we bond with friends, while experiencing the outdoors. I was a little skeptical about not showering for five days, but before I knew it, the day finally came — we were ready to embark on a wild adventure.
We drove for what felt like a lifetime to Big Sur in Northern California. The next morning, we had our first day — and only day — in Big Sur. The morning started with a bowl of Rice Krispies and some scrambled eggs. Following breakfast, we were given the choice between a hard, medium or easy hike.

Assuming the hard hike was going to be well, hard, I set off with the rest of the adventurous campers on the hard hike. We trekked all the way up a beautiful cliff overlooking the ocean, singing songs to pass then time and admiring the scenery.

We walked along the beach and came to an astounding discovery. Earlier that day, a beached whale had died and was now lying on the sand. Staring with amazement at the gargantuan creature, we developed one of the verses of our machon song, “This Tza’adah of Mine,” sung to the tune of “This Little Light of Mine.”

Later that evening, after arriving at Lake Casitas, our campsite for the next three nights, we sat around the bonfire and sang cliched camp songs, aided by packets of the best songs hand selected by our wonderful counselors. We could all sing along and learn the words. I will keep the songbook forever as a memento of this journey.

The next day, we took a bus to a beautiful beach. As my two friends and I were walking along the shore, we found a rock shaped like a heart. We took it with us, promising to start a new tradition of passing the rock, along with a letter, among us so we can keep in touch after camp.

The last day, we were given a choice between kayaking, rock-climbing and mountain-biking. I chose kayaking.

The group leader gave us the task of fitting as many people in one kayak as possible without it tipping over. This may not seem to be difficult, but it was unbelievably hilarious and so hard! Try to imagine people laughing hysterically while squeezing their way onto a little kayak. Meanwhile, it’s sinking, and we’re desperately trying not to tip it over.

I was sitting near the front, and after the ninth or 10th person climbed on, the kayak flipped over. Everyone fell in the water — and to top off a perfect day, the water was the perfect temperature.

Then we had one last task: To stand up straight on the kayak and paddle it like a gondola in Venice. I succeeded after falling in a couple of times!
Tza’adah had finally come to a close, but we were not going to finish without a huge hurrah. As is tradition at Camp Ramah, the machon campers run into the chadar ochel, the dining hall, at the end of lunch, giving mud hugs to friends and family. On our last day, we trudged eight miles back to camp from Lake Casitas, singing, laughing and stopping for POWERade along the way, a necessity in the sweltering heat.

We finally got to camp, jumped in the mud pit and got ready to run into the chadar. I will especially remember being the first to do a belly flop in the mud.

Once everyone was finished getting muddy, we formed platoons and began to march to the chadar. The platoons lined up at different entrances. I could feel the adrenaline pulsing through my veins.

The counselors yelled, “Charge!” and we sprinted for the doors. It was complete pandemonium inside. I ran around yelling, cheering and giving mud hugs to all my friends, making sure to squeeze extra tight to ensure they were truly covered in mud.

Looking back
is so hard, because I know I will never again have the chance to run through the dinning hall covered in mud. Tza’adah defined my camp experience, and I know that even though I will never be a camper again, the memories I created this summer will last forever.

Natalie Katz, a 10th-grader from Manhattan Beach, has attended Camp Ramah for seven years.

Speak Up!

Tribe, a page by and for teens, appears the first issue of every month in The Jewish Journal. Ninth- to 12th-graders are invited to submit first-person columns, feature articles or news stories of up to 800 words. Deadline for the September issue is Aug. 15; Deadline for the Ocotber issue is Sept. 15. Send submissions to

Television – Bruce Feiler’s Biblical Road Trip

For anyone who’s forgotten that the events of the Bible happened in real places, Bruce Feiler is on hand — and on location — to remind them otherwise. He’s also there for those who haven’t forgotten — for those who find joy, entertainment or even enlightenment in visiting these places through his books.

And now he’s taken his biblical road show to television, through a miniseries airing this month on PBS.

The three-part “Walking the Bible With Bruce Feiler” follows the recent documentary trend of sending a charismatic host to a series of dangerous or hard-to-get-to places. Accompanied on occasion by archaeologists, scholars, Egyptologists, and theologians, Feiler tracks his way through places in the Middle East where the biblical stories of Genesis and Exodus are assumed to have occurred.

Feiler goes to Mesopotamia, to the lush shores of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, the legendary location of the Garden of Eden. He also travels to Mount Ararat, the place that the Bible records Noah’s Ark as coming to rest — and speaks to a Turkish pasha-like figure who is cryptic about whether or not he found remnants of the ark itself. And he goes to the deserts where Abraham walked and into the Dome of the Rock, where Abraham supposedly put his son Isaac on an altar with the intent of sacrificing him to God.

He then journeys to Egypt to scale the pyramids — and look at hieroglyphics that might have mentioned Moses. He also hops a ride on a decrepit Red Sea fishing boat, from where fisherman trawl for “Moses Fish” — a flat flounder-like fish that is black on one side and white on the other. It is called Moses fish, the Egyptian fisherman tells him, because when Moses split the sea he also split the fish in half.

Even though the series was filmed within the past two years, it somehow conveys an ancient feel. Scenes are populated by Arabs wearing long robes and kaffiyehs, congregating in marketplaces where cows run amok. Feiler himself camps out in Bedouin tents (there are no five-star hotels in many of these locales) — where he sleeps on the ground and kneels on a blanket to eat flat bread cooked by his hosts over an open fire. It all seems tremendously authentic, as if not much has changed in 5,000 years.

As a writer, Feiler is no stranger to this territory. In 1998 he set out on his first Bible-inspired adventure, trekking through ancient deserts, mountains, rivers and cities — resulting in the best-selling book “Walking the Bible: A Journey by Land Through the Five Books of Moses,” (William Morrow, 2001). That’s the book on which the current series is based. He followed that up with two books of the same hybrid adventure-archeology-travelogue genre, “Abraham, a Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths” (Harper Perennial, 2004) and “Where God Was Born: A Journey by Land to the Roots of Religion” (Harper Collins, 2005).

For the PBS series, Feiler returned to some of the places he had written about, but this time, in September 2004, he was accompanied by a BBC film crew and American producer Drew Levin.

“I really feel that these [biblical] stories happened in real places, and the power of television is that it puts you in those places,” said Feiler in an interview with The Journal from his house in Brooklyn. “For me, part of the goal of ‘Walking the Bible’ is to take the Bible out of those black covers and replant the story into the ground.”

Feiler is not biblical scholar per se. It’s more accurate to cast him as an intelligent, curious, educated, spiritual seeker who takes his readers — and now his viewers — on both a journey through Bible lore and his personal journey.

“When I set out, I was interested in scientific questions: Was this the actual rock or mountain [where the story took place]? I still find those questions fascinating [but] very quickly … I became more interested in the meaning of the story,” he said. “‘Walking the Bible’ is in some ways a reluctant spiritual journey.”

Feiler “is not a trained scholar of the Bible, but that said, he nonetheless offers thoughtful insights into the biblical narratives,” said Carol Bakhos, assistant professor of late antique Judaism at UCLA.

His “take you to where it happened” style has won a following among readers, and PBS is betting the allure will attract television viewers as well.

“We wanted to tell a story that would draw the audience into the region,” said Levin. “What I am hoping will be the result of this production is that people will realize there is a place called the Bible, not just a book called the Bible.”

The first episode of “Walking the Bible With Bruce Feiler” premiered Jan. 4 on KCET. Subsequent episodes will air on Jan. 11 and 18 at 8 p.m. Consult listings for replay times.

Families, Singles Get Ready to Set Sail

The leaves have turned, the days are shorter and Chanukah, the holiday of lights, glimmers ahead. With the winter looming, juicy possibilities await, with plenty of exotic, warm weather options. So go ahead and plan your first big escape of 2006. Or surprise a loved one by booking a post-Chanukah adventure. This might just be the trip of a lifetime.

New Year’s

Amazing Journeys offers a last-minute solution for single travelers in their 20s, 30s and 40s looking to ring in 2006 abroad. Sponsored in conjunction with the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh, the program brings together Jewish singles Dec. 24 aboard a seven-night voyage on Celebrity Cruise’s Constellation from San Juan, Puerto Rico. The trip concludes with a bonus night and New Year’s Eve party at the El San Juan Resort. Ports of call include Aruba, Dominica and Curacao.

Price includes all meals (nonkosher), accommodations, gratuities, port charges and exclusive Amazing Journeys onboard events. An additional two-night, precruise stay at the Wyndam Condado Plaza Hotel and Casino starts at $369, tax and gratuity included.

Dates: Dec. 24-Jan. 1

Cost: $1,999 (double occupancy)

For more information, visit ” target=”_blank”>


Kosherica Cruises, which is known for its tradition of on-board concerts with Dudu Fisher, Mordechai Ben David and other performers, offers families opportunities to travel on the same ship as JSinglesCruisers. Activities include lectures with renowned speakers, such as Rabbi Maurice Lamm, as well as Israeli folk dance classes for women led by Dassie Shuster.

Additional upcoming itineraries for 2006 include the Panama Canal in February to exploring the Baltic in August and Australia and New Zealand next December. During the course of the year, Kosherica will also cruise South America.

For more information, visit ” target=”_blank”> or call (866) 567-4372.


Combine the beauty of Torah study with a tropical paradise during the third annual Kol Echad study program on the Hawaiian island of Maui. Kol Echad, a nondenominational community education program “without boundaries,” is teaming up with the Jewish Congregation of Maui for a weeklong Torah study intensive. No prior knowledge is necessary.

Instructors include Rabbi Yitzhak Schwartz of Jerusalem, founder of the Paradise Principal Institute, who will be teaching a course titled, “10 Sefirot — The Tree of Life: Accessing Our Own Divine Energy,” kabbalah-based techniques for personal growth. Rabbi Jonathan Feldman, associate director of Manhattan Jewish Experience, will present “Kabbalah of Bereshit: Biblical Personalities as Paradigms for Personal Quest.”

Most classes are held daily for about an hour and a half , with free time available for popular Maui attractions, such as scuba diving, snorkeling, surfing, hiking, golf, tennis and bike-riding the 10,000-foot Haleakala crater.

Donation includes a kosher Shabbat dinner, one meal daily, whale watch, guided beachside meditation, singles mixer and a cocktail reception showcasing the work of local Jewish artists.

Dates: Feb. 19-26

Cost: $630 (singles), $900 (couples) suggested donation for program.

For more information and assistance with flight and accommodations, which are booked independently, visit

‘Love With Noodles’ Rife With Canoodles

“Love With Noodles” by Harry I. Freund (Carroll & Graff, $25).

Consider the curious case of Dan Gelder: 60 years old, Jewish, paunchy, bad back. Yet it seems every bejeweled Park Avenue matron is after the investment counselor for love, for money or maybe for just a quick roll in the hay.

That’s the cute and quirky premise of “Love With Noodles,” the debut novel by 65-year-old Park Avenue investment counselor Harry I. Freund. The novel’s subtitle is, “An Amorous Widower’s Tale,” and just how true to life it is, we may never know. But whether or not art imitated life is irrelevant, especially when the ride is as much fun as “Love With Noodles.”

What Freund sorely lacks in literary style, he more than makes up with heart and humor.

Narrated in the first person, present tense (always risky), “Love With Noodles” follows Gelder’s canoodling with a string of women who enter his life just as he emerges from mourning his late beshert, Ellen. Gelder lives alone. His grown son, Eric, faces financial ruin. What’s worse, Eric is planning to marry a non-Jew.

Though all Jewish, Gelder’s women vary widely — from Charlotte, the wife of a friend off on a gay fling, to Maya, a Palestinian rights activist with a knack for lovemaking so vigorous it puts her partners in traction.

He nearly finds beshert No. 2 in Violet, a stinking-rich widow who loves adventure, diamonds and sticking it to those she detests. Gelder nearly steals her heart, and the two are off to Israel to visit Violet’s Orthodox daughter.

But soon, Gelder meets Tatiana, a 43-year-old Ukrainian widow with a 9-year-old piano prodigy son. She is gorgeous, lonely and seemingly angelic. Gelder falls for her hard. But does she love him for who he is or for his bank account?

The last third of the novel chronicles Gelder’s efforts to weed out all the meaningless sexual encounters and settle on choosing between the women that matter: Violet and Tatania. How about both?

Freund has trouble setting the tone of his story. Is it farce? Comedy of manners? Social satire? He isn’t sure, and that trips up his writing.

Moreover, though the book is filled with sex scenes, Gelder/Freund approaches them so gingerly, so squeamishly, they end up less than erotic. One almost feels embarrassed for the author, who doesn’t seem to want to shine a light into the bedroom.

As with many first-person narratives, the main character/narrator is often the most poorly drawn. That is the central problem with “Love With Noodles,” as Gelder ends up frustratingly two-dimensional. A novelist is required to reveal characters, not cover for them.

However, the women are delightful, especially Violet. She has all the color and brashness of a Tennessee Williams heroine. If they ever make a movie adaptation of this book, the Shirley McClaines and Meryl Streeps of the world will be fighting for the part.

There’s plenty of Jewish content here, from the pair of Orthodox Jewish weddings, to Gelder’s anguish over his son’s intermarriage, to the sojourn across Israel.

Like all good fiction, “Love With Noodles” expands its borders beyond the parochial. Anyone past the halfway point of life, hurtling forward with unease, will see something of himself in Gelder, paunch or no paunch.

Freund has a long way to go if he wants to join the ranks of great American novelists. But if there was a Pulitzer Prize for understanding the subtleties of life, Freund would have his on the mantel by now.

One Powerful Parchment

Jono Wagmeister’s bar mitzvah adventure started at a friend’s bat mitzvah in Atlanta last April, and took him on a virtual journey across the world and through centuries of Jewish history.

It was in Atlanta that Jono first heard about the 1,564 scrolls the Nazis collected and catalogued for a future exhibit on the extinct race. In 1964 the decaying scrolls were transported to Westminster Synagogue in London, where they were repaired, catalogued and made available on loan to synagogues around the world through the Czech Memorial Scrolls Centre.

When Wagmeister returned to Los Angeles, he found out that University Synagogue, where he had attended Hebrew school since first grade, had just such a scroll.

“I thought, ‘How come we have this special thing and no one knows about it?'” said Wagmeister, a seventh-grader at Harvard-Westlake School.

He found out that Rabbi Allen Freehling, rabbi emeritus at University Synagogue, acquired the scroll in 1974. Wagmeister continued his research by Internet and phone, and found out that the scroll was scribed in 1690 and was from Kolin, a small Czech town near Prague.

Susan Boyer, a resident of Los Angeles and a founding member of the Czech Torah Network, which links institutions with scrolls, helped him get in touch with Hana Greenfield, one of a handful of survivors from Kolin.

Greenfield, who lives in Israel, was deported to Terezin, then to Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen. Her story is documented in her autobiography, “Fragments of Memory: From Kolin to Jerusalem” (Gefen Publishing) and she has been involved in Israel and the Czech Republic in educating children about the Holocaust.

Greenfield accepted Wagmeister’s invitation to his bar mitzvah (he is paying for her ticket with the gift money he will receive) and will be called to the Torah for an aliyah when Wagmeister reads the Torah portion from the scroll from Greenfield’s hometown.

“Now I feel that there’s this connection between my synagogue and this scroll, and the synagogue that the scroll came from before the war,” Wagmeister said. “I hope that every time people see this scroll in synagogue now, it will be more meaningful for them.”

Hana Greenfield is speaking on Monday, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m.
at University Synagogue, 11960 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles. (310) 472-1255.
For more information on the Czech Memorial Scrolls Centre, visit .

Environmental Spirituality

If you are looking for a place where you are just as likely to go ocean kayaking and rock climbing as you are to daven Shacharit (morning prayers) and learn brachot (blessings), then the Shalom Nature Center (SNC) is probably the place for you.

Since its inception in 1998, SNC has been introducing Jewish students across the United States to a part of their religion they didn’t even know existed: environmental spirituality.

The center is part of the Shalom Institute, an umbrella organization in Malibu that encompasses other Jewish environmental programs, such as Camp JCA Shalom and the Shalom Adventure Center. In 2000, the center received a $552,000 grant from the Jewish Community Foundation to launch the College Campus Initiative.

The aim of the initiative is to engage unaffiliated college students in Jewish life through programs that meet their interests, such as social action and environmentalism. To that end, SNC has been creating a variety of on-campus programs and off-campus adventure trips. The trips run the gamut from natural beauty nights, during which students make their own lip balm, to white-water rafting in Utah.

“Our goal is to take Jews out in nature and to enable them to have these transforming experiences.” said Josh Lake, 30, SNC’s director. “It appeals to people, because many people can’t grasp a lot of concepts in the Torah, but they can absorb nature.

“Judaism relies tremendously on a natural environment, and the Torah describes how people can live in a natural setting. The outdoors is a phenomenal venue for education, because that is where life takes place, outdoors, under the sky,” he said.

On the adventure trips, students learn, among other things, how to erect tents, make matchless fires, find medicinal plants, canoe and climb rocks. They are briefed on environmental matters such as the water cycle and the food chain, but SNC applies a Jewish sensibility to everything that is taught.

“These are fun experiences,” Lake said, “but with a bit of a debrief, people can understand that this is God’s world, and by having these fun activities, you are experiencing God’s creation that is talked about in ‘Bereshit’ [Genesis].”

Tally Wolf, 23, SNC program director, said the center’s programs attract students from all denominations of Judaism and from all cultural sects, be it Persian, Russian, Israeli or American.

“We really have a unique niche, because no one else is providing Jewish nature activities for college students in this way,” he said. “We provide them with a spiritual experience in the outdoors, and a lot of the kids who have come on our programs have gone on to become environmental educators, and they come back to work with us.”

Wolf said that many of the students do not make time in their lives for these types of activities. “It’s hard to show them that this is an investment; that to free yourself from the city and enrich your soul is better than simply cramming things into your mind. It is hard to compete with the other things that are going on in their lives.”

The center provides an advisory service that assists Jewish organizations in the United States to plan camping and adventure trips. It also operates the Shalom Tevah program, a camping project that caters to grade-school students.

Michelle Rothstein, an 11-year-old student at the Pressman Academy, recently participated in a five-day program at the center, during which she went on a five-mile hike and learned to how to make campfires.

“It was really cool to learn how all this nature and stuff could connect to our religion,” she said. “It helped us bond better.”